With a wide gulf separating them from the top of the NL East, the New York Mets need R.A. Dickey pitching at the top of his game if they harbor any hopes of climbing back into contention.
Dickey's most recent outing was quite encouraging.
The Mets will hand the ball to the knuckleballer Friday in the opener of a three-game road series against the San Diego Padres.
Dickey (14-2, 2.83 ERA) was nearly unhittable for much of the season's first half and earned a spot on the All-Star team, but his knuckler fluttered back to earth as he went 1-1 with a 6.49 ERA in his first six appearances of July.
He returned to All-Star form Sunday at Arizona, allowing an unearned run and four hits while striking out eight through seven innings of work in a 5-1 victory.
Dickey pitched similarly well in a 2-0 home win over the Padres on May 27, striking out 10 and limiting San Diego to three hits in 7 1-3 innings.
"When you don't see it often, it's different," San Diego man...